Student video stars veterans, memorials

Avonworth student video-makers Grace Heflin, Sam Wimer, Jake Sommers and Sean Boaks are pictured with veteran Emily Drake near one of the North Shore memorials.

It started as an observation one day last year as Jake Sommers and his mom, Kelli, were walking along the North Shore of Pittsburgh where they saw the beautiful and meaningful memorials commemorating the service and sacrifice of so many men and women of the Armed Services. World War II, Korea, Vietnam.

But as Jake and his mom noticed, few people were giving much attention to the memorials. Bikers rolled by; walkers strolled by. Nobody stopped to ponder the significance of the memorials.

And that is when Jake began to develop an idea that might challenge this complacency. The idea: create a video that shows the beauty and the importance of these reminders of what so many gave to keep our nation safe and secure.
With assistance from Avonworth teachers Melissa DeSimone, GATE instructor, and from Mike Lincoln, who teaches broadcasting courses, a video titled “Pittsburgh Remembers” that runs just short of nine minutes was launched, not just for Pittsburghers, but for the world to view and to appreciate.

Sam Wimer, a close friend and classmate, signed on to be Jake’s co-producer on the project. Additional students helping included Grace Heflin, Sean Boaks and Caitlin Bellotti who assisted with editing.

“Caitlin put in several hours editing the video,” Lincoln said. “She is a very skilled student.”

Help also came from Heinz History Center volunteers Rick Erisman, Robert Stakeley and Paulette Hemmings, all who helped the students to contact and interview veterans who are seen in the video. Those veterans, Emily Drake, Warren Goss, Robert Harbula and Gordon Lam speak of their service experiences and of the importance of the memorials.

Some of the most dramatic images in the video were captured by two different types of drones provided by Lincoln, who worked with Jake on capturing the aerial shots.

Music heard throughout the video, “Leave No Man Behind,” adds to the serious message of the production. The selection was composed by Hans Zimmer for the film, “Black Hawk Down.”

The video eventually became Jake’s and Sam’s senior project, but they will forever remember their work as being more than a school project.

Jake says of the work and all who helped, “I am very proud at how well this turned out. When we first came up with the idea we never thought the production would turn into such a powerful film. Sam and I especially worked very hard and we are very proud of what we have created. I learned a lot from this project and it was an amazing opportunity to get to meet some of our local heroes.”

Sam shares similar feelings. “This is something that I am very proud to have my name on and I hope that it accurately depicts how veterans feel about local monuments. The veterans gave all of us a wonderful viewpoint through their stories and they should be recognized and appreciated throughout the entire Pittsburgh community.”

The video took about two months to create. It may be accessed simply by doing a Google search with the title, Pittsburgh Remembers.